Psilocybin is known as the active compound in so-called “magic mushrooms”, yet most psilocybin used in clinical trials today is synthesized in laboratories without the use of biological material.
As psychedelics-assisted therapy gains momentum, investors need to understand the difference between the current available means of obtaining psilocybin.
One method will likely dominate the industry in decades to come.
- How is psilocybin produced?
- Are natural sources better than synthetic ones?
- Which method is the most cost-effective?
Four methods will compete for the projected legal psilocybin markets, each with their own set of pros and cons, ranging from sustainability and therapeutic potential to production cost and scalability.
1: Chemically-Synthesized Psilocybin
“There's a few different routes to producing psilocybin. The one that's been pursued most commonly in the legal and medical space is the total chemical synthesis of psilocybin,” says Marshall Tyler, Director of Research at Field Trip Health (CSE: FTRP) (NASDAQ: FTRP).
Isolated psilocybin was branded in the late 50s by Sandoz as Indocybin and sold commercially for therapeutic clinical research, until becoming scheduled by the United Nations in the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The first chemical synthesis of psilocybin is attributed to Albert Hoffman, the Swiss chemist famously known for having also discovered LSD.
Today, synthetic psilocybin is the most widely-used form of psilocybin in clinical trials being conducted around the globe.
“I think that chemical synthesis is a very efficient way to make these molecules because they're structurally very simple molecules to make. They're not like cannabinoids or antibiotics that have a lot of complications in the molecular structure. They're pretty easy to synthesize,” says Andrew Chadeayne, founder and CEO of CaaMTech, an early-stage psychedelics research company.
Furthermore, being a crystalline compound, synthetic psilocybin can be purified into 100% pure individual molecules.
Today, more companies are entering the market as suppliers of research-grade psilocybin, in what continues to be a bottlenecked supply chain. While other methods are becoming available, Field Trip’s Tyler believes that chemically-synthesized psilocybin will continue to dominate clinical trials and the medical applications of the drug for the foreseeable future.
“It's getting easier and easier to do the chemical reaction that produces psilocybin. There are continuous advancements being made and it's actually not that expensive,” says Tyler who holds a Master’s degree in chemical biology.
From a regulatory perspective, chemically-produced psilocybin also makes sense.
“As with any drug development, unfortunately, it's very, very difficult to get a botanical drug approved. And so having this single molecule in isolation makes it a lot easier to push through clinical trials and ultimately get a drug approved for depression and other related disorders,” says Tyler.
COMP360, Compass Pathways’ (NASDAQ: CMPS) proprietary formulation of psilocybin was recently tested in the largest randomized, controlled, double-blind phase 2 study on psilocybin therapy study ever conducted, …